A former Maharashtra cop, a breakaway member of the AAP and an activist working among Sikkimese people — they are among the 24 people who have formed new political outfits that will make their electoral debut, albeit as "unrecognised parties", in the coming elections.
The 24 parties, with names as diverse as Hum Sabki Party, Rashtriya Vikalp Party, Apna Dal United Party, Ex-Sainik Vikas Party, Awami Vikas Party and Free Thought Party, have been registered as Unrecognised Parties by the election commission for the April 7-May 12 Lok Sabha polls.
With electoral promises ranging from introducing digital currency to tackling corruption, and working for the downtrodden to increasing participation of people in law making and administration processes, these new outfits have begun campaigning among voters across the country.
IANS tried to track these "new" political outfits — with many not even having websites — and was able to trace three.
The Awami Vikas Party was formed last year by Shamsher Wazir Khan, a former Maharashtra assistant commissioner of police.
"In order to work for uplift of the downtrodden sections of society, there is no other option but to enter the poll fray," Khan told IANS on phone from Mumbai. The Mumbai-based party is contesting for 22 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra and one in Uttar Pradesh.
He said that though 85% of the people in the country came from the Scheduled Castes and backward classes, they were always kept away from the mainstream of society.
"So what if our party is new? The party's ideology and our work among the people will help us win seats," said Khan, adding that he formed the outfit to work for downtrodden sections of society, especially the minority communities.
Like his party, there are a staggering 1,617 unrecognised outfits in the country so far waiting to get the poll panel's nod.
At the moment, there are six national parties and 47 state parties.
According to a senior official of the election commission: "Registered unrecognised political parties are the ones who neither come under state-based, nor national parties. Therefore, they are not even eligible for a permanent party symbol during the elections."
Under the rules, these parties will be allotted symbols from a list of 87 'free symbols' only when they fulfil the criteria of contesting 10% of the total seats in a state or the country.
The election commission official added: "If they win the Lok Sabha elections, they will represent their party in Parliament. But the party will not be acknowledged as state-based or national."
They will then need to be engaged in political activities for a continuous period of five years, and bag 6% of the valid votes polled, with at least three members elected to a legislative assembly and one to the Lok Sabha to get recognition from the poll panel.
Once recognised, the parties are eligible for allotment of permanent symbols.
The only Delhi-based party to be registered among the 24 new outfits is the Garib Aadmi Party (GAP/Poor Man's Party), which has fielded 50 candidates across the country.
The party was formed two months ago by Shyam Bharti, a former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member. Among his poll promises, Bharti has proposed replacing paper currency with digital currency to "abolish corruption" and providing ration cards and Aadhar cards to every poor individual in the country.
"Formation of Garib Aadmi Party was necessary as AAP, which initially claimed to work for poor people, has deviated from its objectives", Bharti, who is to file his nomination from Varanasi — from where BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting — told IANS.
A Hyderabad-based outfit, Mahajan Socialist Party, is focusing on "injustice" to Dalit Christians in southern India.
In eastern India, the Sikkim Liberation Party (SLP) is campaigning among the "original" Sikkimese communities to include them in the development process.
"None of the political parties fighting in the elections is serious about resolving the important issues relating to the development of Sikkim," SLP president Duknath Nepal said over phone from Gangtok.
"Our party's aim is to develop Sikkim, and the people of Sikkim understand this very well. So this time we are confident of a win," said Nepal, a former social activist.
In their bid to bag as many votes, these new political outfits are focusing on specific communities and raising issues that concern them during campaign time. But only time will tell whether they will even open their account in this election.